No. 9 ASU wrestling wins back-to-back Pac-12 championships

The Sun Devils successfully defended their title in Oregon on Sunday night

Back-to-back is not a phrase that has been associated with the No. 9 ASU wrestling team the past few years — however, that stigma has officially changed. The Sun Devils won their second Pac-12 championship in a row on Sunday in Corvallis, OR.

ASU posted 96.0 points to win, while Oregon State finished second with 70.0 points followed by CSU Bakersfield (52.5), Stanford (47.5) and Cal Poly (37.0).  

Individual champions included senior Ali Naser (133); redshirt senior Jason Tsirtsis (149); redshirt sophomores Josh Shields (157), Anthony Valencia (165) and Zahid Valencia (174); and freshman Kordell Norfleet (184).

ASU has not repeated as conference champions since the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

Among the six champions, Tsirtsis might have the most interesting journey.

Tsirtsis’s opponent wrestled tough in the finals match, but Tsirtsis was able to work his offense and add a Pac-12 championship trophy next to his Big-10 conference trophy.

Tsirtsis, who won an NCAA championship in 2014, ran out of eligibility at Northwestern, but was granted an extra year from the NCAA.

Naser is another ASU senior standing on top of the podium, a wrestler who was not even in the national ranking to start the year.

Naser controlled both of his matches and exhibited his tremendous improvement throughout the long season.

Head coach Zeke Jones said most of Naser’s improvement involved his top rides, meaning he does not give up any easy escape points.

“That’s what was holding him (back) at the beginning of the year,” Jones said. 

Norfleet was not part of ASU’s initial recruiting plans, but after a couple of marquee wins and a few character affirmations, Jones said he went after Norfleet hard.

“I’m just happy that we won,” Norfleet said. “It’s a good day in the Sun Devil community.”

In the first place match, Norfleet had an offensive feeding frenzy that did not slow down the entire seven minutes.

“He dominated that kid,” Jones said after Norfleet’s first place match. “He is going to be in the mix to win it in a couple of years.”

Although ASU controlled its own destiny and earned another conference championship, the team is always looking to get better.

The Sun Devils improved on some of their weaknesses since their last test against Lehigh a month ago, but Jones still isn't comfortable with his team’s top game.

“Our riding has to get better, and we need to fight for bonus points,” Jones said. “We have to get them to do the hard things.”

Even though there is some room for improvement, the Sun Devils are celebrating their second conference championship under Jones.

Senior Associate Athletic Director Don Bocchi believes this is just the beginning for ASU, and is proud of the work the team has put in to become a top-level program.

“This means a lot because they work so hard,” Bocchi said. "Next year we're going to have eight (champions)."

ASU has another two weeks of rest before the NCAA tournament in Cleveland, OH.

Last year, ASU earned their highest place finish since the 2011 season, and will be looking to finish higher this season. 

“We’re never satisfied,” Jones said. 

If this years’ improvement is any kind of foreshadow, the team will surprise a tremendous amount of spectators at Quicken Loans Arena, March 15-17.


Reach the reporter at trittenh@asu.edu or follow @trittenhouse34 on Twitter.   

Like State Press Sports on Facebook and follow @statepresssport on Twitter.  


Get the best of State Press delivered straight to your inbox.